The preliminary meeting of the Expert Group of the World Book Capital Cities Network. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The city of Sharjah, the 2019 UNESCO World Book Capital, has hosted representatives from most UNESCO-designated World Book Capital cities to reflect on their individual stories and discuss strategies to strengthen their legacy while sharing their experiences with future holders of the status.

At the preliminary meeting of the Expert Group of the World Book Capital Cities Network, the emirate hosted 16 World Book Capital cities including Guadalajara, the 2022 World Book Capital, at the House of Wisdom – a futurist cultural hub built to commemorate the UNESCO honour to Sharjah.

Strategic objectives

Discussions centered on the network’s mission and strategic objectives, that is, to strengthen cooperation and develop knowledge sharing and good practices among members of the network, as well as strengthen the cities’ commitment to promoting books and reading particularly in the wake of the global pandemic, which hit the book sector severely. This network, alongside the Cities for Literature (part of the Creative Cities Network) highlights UNESCO’s commitment to authors’ creativity, books and reading.

Welcoming the guests, IPA President Bodour Al Qasimi, stated that the 2019 title had not only reinforced the emirate’s status as a regional cultural hub, but positively impacted the development of its book industry and reading culture.

She added that the power and beauty of being a WBC city is that such positive benefits last for years to come and offer a chance to reinforce social cohesion through books, and promote cultural dialogue.

Stay connected

Expressing her pleasure in hosting the first meeting of the World Book Capital Network, Al Qasimi called on all previous WBC cities to collaborate and stay connected to improve the impact of the prestigious title and enhance the positive benefits it brings to the industry.

“A strong network that builds on the momentum of the WBC honor will benefit cities and future generations through the exchange of ideas on the legacy of the title,” Al Qasimi added.

Highlighting the role of member cities in the network and outlining its priorities and future developments, Ian Denison, WBC programme coordinator, stated that. “Strong motivation exists amongst the World Book Capital cities to show solidarity with other cities wishing to rise to the challenge of becoming a UNESCO-designated city. Cooperation within the new network will help provide other cities with access to sources of knowledge and best practices.”

Alongside the networking event, an open design exhibition organised at the House of Wisdom drew further attention to the unique footprints and literary legacies of the 22 WBC cities. An installation featuring a cloud of pages cascading down in different languages was a main highlight, along with large panels depicting the achievements of the former WBC cities, including Sharjah. The installation stood as a strong symbol of knowledge and ideas and the impact of the written word in forging cultural connections.

IPA hosted its 125th anniversary celebrations on the sidelines of the networking event.

Ghana World Book Capital for 2023

Earlier in September, the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, named Accra (Ghana) as UNESCO World Book Capital for 2023, for its strong focus on young people and their potential to contribute to the culture and wealth of Ghana.

Since 2001, the UNESCO World Book Capital’s Advisory Panel, which comprises representatives from the International Authors Forum, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the International Publishers Association and UNESCO, has been selecting a World Book Capital every year, where the title is awarded to the city, which shows continued excellence in charting a cultural programme of activities throughout the year to promote reading and books focusing on grassroot community involvement.